What practical steps can we take to help native species and ecosystems in Victoria, Australia, survive the impacts of climate change?
Victoria is the smallest mainland state in Australia, but has a remarkable range of ecosystem types ranging from semi-arid landscapes in the west to towering eucalypt forests and ferny cool-temperate rainforests in the east.
It has treeless alpine and sub-alpine reaches in the Great Divide and a high energy coastline south along Bass Strait.
In all there are some 300 recognised ecological vegetation communities (EVCs), and a great host of native species within them.
These natural communities provide numerous benefits to the Victorian economy and its people, including tourism, clean water for drinking and agriculture, as well as the capture and storage of carbon.
But what does their future look like under climate change and how can we help native species and ecosystems survive the impacts of climate change?
A likely climate scenario for Victoria in 2050
Assuming ongoing high levels of global greenhouse gas emissions:
- Temperatures in Victoria would be 1.2° to 2.5°C warmer on average than recent decades. Around the state, temperatures above 40°C in summer would occur two to four times more frequently, and heat waves would be more frequent and longer. There would be fewer frosts in winter. For any location projected climate would resemble that of sites today hundreds of kilometres further north, or at significantly lower elevation. For example, Melbourne's climate would be roughly like the current one of Wagga Wagga.
- The sea level could rise 25cm above 1995 levels, with low-lying bayside and coastal communities more frequently inundated.
- Along with the first decade of the century, later decades are likely to have rainfall below the long-term average, particularly in winter and spring. There are likely to be more intense downpours in summer, making it more difficult to store and use water. Increasing areas would be at risk from flooding during intense summer storms. Soil moisture for cropping and pasture would be much lower and more inconsistent than now. Some drier summers are also possible.
- Major bushfires would be more common.
- In the mountains, snowpack would be reduced by 50%.
What can we do?
In October 2015 the symposium Managing Victoria's Biodiversity under Climate Change was held at the Bio21 Institute to identify the most effective strategies that can be adopted to minimise the impacts of climate change on Victoria's natural systems and the benefits they provide for the Victorian people.
Ideas and practical management actions emerging from the symposium will be posted on the website VicNature 2050 and through a number of social media platforms.
The material will be compiled by ecologist and writer Dr Ian Lunt.
About VicNature 2050
The 2015 symposium and website VicNature 2050 have been organised by the Victorian National Parks Association, the Royal Society of Victoria and University of Melbourne.
The symposium was made possible with the generous support of major sponsors Parks Victoria and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
- Prof Ary Hoffmann FAA (School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne)
- Prof Lynne Selwood (University of Melbourne and Royal Society of Victoria)
- Dr Bill Birch (President, Royal Society of Victoria)
- Prof Andrew Bennett (La Trobe University & Arthur Rylah Institute)
- Phil Ingamells (for the Victorian National Parks Association)